Twenty-four years ago today… she said, “I do.” And for twenty-four years, she has. Today I get the privilege of celebrating twenty-four years of wedded bliss with my best friend, Angela!

She is deeply spiritual… fiercely loyal… faithfully committed… ultra-compassionate… uber selfless… and yes, smokin’ hot! Not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing her so closely. If you did, you’d discover that she is even more amazing than you already know her to be.

I love how talented she is… how she wants to do things with excellence… how she nurtures and looks after those she loves… how cunning and sneaky she can be to surprise someone with something nice or to play a prank on someone… and yes, I love her cooking!

Scripture says that when God daw Adam, he saw that it was not good for him to be alone. He needed a companion. I’m pretty sure the Lord looked at me and thought the same thing. So He blessed me. He brought Angela alongside me to share this journey of life, and I am so thankful that He did.

All of our days have not been perfect. Our story has its rises and falls. But I wouldn’t trade a moment of it spent with her.

When I call her PR31, I reference the Proverbs 31 woman whom she so closely resembles in every subtle nuance. Today, I rise and call her blessed because of who she is, and because of her faithful love shared with me. And yet… I feel like I am the one who is blessed because I get to share this life with her.

Today, I thank the Lord 8,760 days we’ve shared so far… and look forward to all the days ahead we get to share together! May they be more than double that!!!

I unplugged the iPad from where it had been charging so I could take it with me to do some work while I waited on an oil change. When I unplugged it, the screen lit, and I saw a notification box in the middle. I tapped on it, and it read, “You have a new memory.” When I opened it, it was a great memory we had made a little over a year ago when we just had fun as a family. Nothing expensive or extravagant. Just time spent together smiling, laughing, cooking and eating… enjoying each other. Today, seeing those pics from that time, I am so glad we made the time to make those memories.

This begs the question… What memories am I making today that I will be glad I made a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now? When the boys are away at college, what memory will pop up on whatever electronic device we have then?

You see, if I don’t make them now, we won’t have them then. And I definitely want to have great memories in life. So I have to make those great memories. I have heard Author and Pastor, Mark Batterson, say, “Accumulate experiences, not possessions.” In other words, spend your time and money on making memories with the people you love which will one day pop up on the iPad to bring a smile back to your face and light up your eyes once more.

And hey, don’t let this post make you feel guilty if you haven’t been making great memories. Let it instead inspire you to start now. It’s the perfect time to begin. A month from now… a year from now… a lifetime from now, you’ll be glad you did!

“No one is so poor that they cannot at least pay attention.” – Unknown

One of my goals in life is to be more and more generous. However, like most of us, there are times when I feel like I cannot give as much as I would like. Perhaps it’s finances… or material possessions… or even time. But at that exact moment, I’m not able to give all that I would like to give.

There is a way, however, in which each of us can be generous at any given moment. It’s a gift any of us can afford. It is the ability to pay attention.

Everyone needs attention. Many long for it because they rarely receive it. People nod and wave. We often ask, “How are you,” as we keep walking right past a person. And so, many people go through life depleted in the reservoirs of their soul because they have experienced a drought of attention. Yet, we can all afford to pay attention in almost any given moment.

Years ago, a man I worked with in ministry taught me this valuable life lesson. He said it had been handed down to him from an mature minister whom he had watched practice it on many occasions. I had shared with my co-worker how, at the events we led, I felt so inadequate at giving everyone some time so that they knew I was interested in them and cared about them. What he shared that day helped me from that moment on to live generously in those times.

He said that I would never be able to give everyone as much time as they would want with me or as much time as I would want to give them, but I could always pay real attention to the person right in front of me. I could look them in the eye, and not look over their shoulder to see who else I needed to talk with. I could listen to what they were saying, and not try to formulate what I would say in response till they were done. I could focus on them, and let them know they were special. And when those few moments were done, that person would feel special… cared for… noticed… respected… loved… acknowledged. When I finished paying genuine attention to that person, I could feel free to move on to find the next person to whom I could give the gift of attention. Sure, there would be the casual greetings because too many people and too little time meant there was no way to do this for everyone. But for those to whom I could give the gift of attention, their day would be better, and my relationship with them would be deepened.

He was right, of course. I began right away to do my best to practice generosity in the form of genuine attention. No, I wasn’t always successful. I would sometimes get caught up in the chaos and allow myself to get too busy to give this gift, but I did my best. Years have passed since he shared that affordable gift idea with me, and I began trying to be generous in that way. Interestingly, I received a text just this past week from someone who shared how much it meant that I had paid attention to them and to others back then. It mattered to them. It still matters to this day.

So, the next time you think you don’t have anything to give… the next time you want to be generous, but aren’t sure you have a $20 bill in your wallet to hand a college student… or a car to donate to charity… the next time you desire to make a difference by giving… give the gift anyone can afford. Pay attention to the person in front of you at the moment. It may be your spouse, your kids, your co-worker, a neighbor, or the person on the aisle in Walmart who just wants someone to talk to. Whoever it is… whenever it is… just do your best to be generous with your attention. I promise… you can afford it!

This past weekend, we had a massive garage sale. Friday in particular was brutally hot, and we spent most of the day outside. Although I must admit, I tried to stay in the actual garage with a fan blowing on me as much as possible.

In the middle of the day, a dear family friend stopped by and visited with us for awhile. She is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. She is thoughtful, gracious, considerate, and never to be outdone when it comes to generosity. After her visit, we all commented how fun it was to have her stop by.

Later that afternoon, she texted me to let me know that she was picking us up some ice cream and would be by to deliver it to us shortly. I told her she didn’t need to do it, but she insisted. And sure enough, about ten minutes later, she rolled into the driveway with her delivery. For the record, it wasn’t just ice cream… It was Blue Bell. I grew up in Texas, and so the jingle… “Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country,” actually means something to me.

I thanked her profusely, as did the boys. What she didn’t know until I told her, was that when I slipped inside to gobble down a quick lunch earlier, I wanted some kind of dessert. I had thought to myself, “It is so hot, some ice cream sure would be good.” But I knew none of us would be going to the store that day because of the garage sale, and so I figured ice cream was just out of the question. It was just a fleeting craving and a fanciful whim… so I thought. Until she brought ice cream.

I had not said a word to anyone about ice cream. I didn’t have to. The One who knows all things delights in every detail of my life, according to Psalm 37:23. He knew that He could nudge her heart to buy ice cream, and she would do it. So He did.

She did not know that I needed that ice cream reminder that day to remind me that if my Heavenly Father can cause someone to bring me the dessert I wanted on a whim, then He can tackle the other part of that verse, which says He also directs the steps of my life. It was a subtle reminder, but it was not lost on me. He threw it, and I caught it.

So when is ice cream not just ice cream? When it reminds that person receiving it of how intimately involved God is in their life. You see, it wasn’t just ice cream she delivered Friday… It was love… It was encouragement… It was hope.

So, this week, let’s be sensitive to those nudges… because we never know when it is not just ice cream.

Author’s Note: Excited to share this 400th post with you today!

Sometimes the boys try to explain a video game to me, and it sounds like they are speaking a foreign language. Sometimes PR31 tries to tell me how to cook something or what she is doing with a craft, and it seems like we must be from different countries because I can’t seem to understand what she is saying.

But there is a language all of us understand… and crave. That language is encouragement. We all know it when we hear it, and we each need to hear it daily.

I was speaking at a conference recently, and I sat in on the other sessions when mine was over that morning. One of the speakers shared a University of Washington study from ten years ago which showed that students between the ages of 12-17 hear negative statements at a rate of 30 negative statements to 1 positive statement. My guess is that teenagers aren’t the only ones hearing that many negative statements in life. If it isn’t someone else, we sometimes speak negatively to ourselves.

That’s why it’s so important to speak “up.” Speaking the language of “up” means keeping our words positive, uplifting, helpful, good, and encouraging. It’s a foreign language to many people. They have rarely or never heard it, and so they don’t understand it very well. But instinctively, they know there is something about it that they like. And like any language, if we will practice, we can not only hear it and understand it, but we can begin to speak it.

I want to be fluent in the language of “up.” I want every word that comes out of my mouth to be tinged with hope and joy. I want to see people’s frowns turn into smiles when I speak this language to them. I want to hear from people that their life improved after I spoke this language of encouragement and inspiration to them.

It’s funny to me that we always think of Heaven and God as being up because Heaven is too difficult to locate, and God is not restricted or limited to one location or direction. But isn’t it interesting that we think of Him and where He lives as “up?” He is the originator of speaking this language called “up.” Even when He has to challenge or correct, it is in such a way and with the desire to lift us… “up.” And since my life revolves around knowing Him intimately, loving Him deeply and following/serving Him faithfully, I want to speak His language… the language of “up.”

We can learn this language and become fluent, and in so doing begin to bring transformation to the lives of those whose paths cross ours each day. Don’t let an opportunity to make such a significant impact pass you by today. Send the text, make the call, pay the compliment, offer the encouragement, share some hope… Speak up!

Our family loves to watch Kids Baking Championship on The Food Network. About a dozen kids between the ages of nine to twelve from across the U. S. (& one from Canada this season) compete on the weekly show to see which kid will be crowned best kid baker in the nation.

One of the shows challenges which has become a tradition is “dessert imposters.” It involves the kids each using baked goods to create an identical look-alike to a meal from a theme given by the hosts. Like every challenge, there is a twist thrown in along the way to make the kids up their game just a little more. Some of the dessert imposters are easily spotted as fakes… not looking much like the real thing at all. Others are amazingly life-like replicas. Some even taste good.

But what struck me tonight is how how hard those kids work to create something fake. I know that’s the assignment for that part of the competition. It’s just crazy that it takes as much… or maybe even more… effort to produce a fake as it would to create the real thing.

And I wonder how many people are doing the same thing in their lives… working like crazy to create an imposter of what they think a real, successful life looks like. I wonder how different their life would be if they applied that same amount of effort at being their real self… genuine and authentic. What if they quit using filters on every picture of themselves? What if they didn’t pad their résumé with those carefully researched words they know employers are looking for? What if they used social media to be sincere and to encourage others?

I guess we all have some room for improvement in this area. I know the struggle is real to retain our integrity when it feels like we need to make ourselves sound like more. But why must we create imposters of ourselves?

We are each created by God, in His image. He loves us and values us as original masterpieces. None of our efforts to make ourselves look better than we are… or to look like someone else… are impressive to Him.

Truth be told, when our efforts are tested and prove that we are not what we tried to make ourselves look like, it’s not impressive to anyone else either. So, again I ask… why apply all the effort to crafting a fake us when, with the same amount of effort applied, we could make the original us shine.

So I’m calling on all of us today to take one significant step toward being less fake and toward being authentic. Maybe it’s only one social media post. Maybe it’s an interview. Maybe it’s a conversation with someone you find yourself starting to love. Whatever the case, let’s be real. Let’s skip the imposter round… regardless of how sweet it may sound

In his latest book, Whisper, Mark Batterson tells how several years ago he was challenged to make sure anything he said about someone else behind their back was positive. He wrote that he likes to “brag behind their back.”

I like that! What if we took time today to talk about one friend to another friend… and what if we bragged on that person without them knowing we did it? What if we made a habit of bragging behind people’s back? What if Word started getting back to people that we said something about them… something positive, encouraging, complimentary… behind their backs?

There’s something great about knowing that someone else is saying something nice about you when you’re not around. If they’ll do that, they must surely mean it. If they’ll say it when there is no expectation of anything in return, it must really come from the heart.

Wouldn’t it be terrific for someone else to hear tomorrow that you said something nice about them behind their back today? What if bosses started doing this about their employees… and vice versa? What if Republicans started doing this about Democrats… and vice versa? What if one business owner would do this about their rival… and vice versa?

I don’t know, maybe some of that is too much to hope for. But I don’t think it’s too much for you and me to begin making a difference in the lives of those around us by making sure that everything we say about them is good and helpful… that it encourages them if they hear we said it. I believe husbands can start doing this about their wives… and vice versa. Parents can start doing this about their kids… and vice versa.

Let’s let these encouraging words trickle back to people we care about and brighten their day. I for one want to find the biggest gossip I know and start spreading some good news through them about my friends! If you’re with me, use #goodgossip when sharing this post with others.

I love to see someone do what they do best…

* Michael Jordan or Lebron James playing basketball.

* Drew Brees or Tom Brady playing quarterback in football.

* Duff Goldman making cakes.

* Bob Villa or Chip Gaines remodeling a house.

You know, God gave each of us special abilities to do something well. Doing that thing fills us with joy and fulfillment… and others love watching us do it because it inspires them.

In Scripture, when God wanted to manage a multi-national food crisis, he picked Joseph. When He wanted someone to lead His people out of bondage to the Promised Land, He picked Moses. When He wanted someone to protect His people, He picked David.

And when He wanted someone to build the place He would express His presence among His people, He chose Bezalel and Oholiab. Not only were they “skilled,” “expert,” and “master craftsmen,” God had also given them, “the ability to teach their skills to others.” In today’s terms, they would have had the skills and a YouTube channel to show the rest of us how to do it right.

You’re no different. God has given you abilities and skills which others watch in amazement. Don’t underestimate yourself because what you do is not what someone else does. Moses was a leader, Aaron was a priest and Joshua was a warrior, but none of them even came close to being the master craftsmen that Bezalel and Oholiab were.

So get out there, and do what you do. Wow the rest of us. And while you’re at it, why don’t you start a YouTube channel so the rest of us could learn a thing or two from you?